THE Tories really hate Gaelic. If you believed some of the guff that Conservative politicians and frothing Unionists with flegs in their social media avatars come out with, the Gaelic language possesses magical powers to cause potholes in the roads and to make police helicopters fall out of the sky. After Police Scotland unveiled their new logo, which has Gaelic on it, they’ve been at it again. Grìs de ghrìsean. That’s horror of horrors, in case you’re a Tory MSP and you get upset by such things.

The new logo has a stylised thistle with a crown on top, underneath which are the words Semper Vigilo, which is Latin for “Always annoying Tory MSPs”. Beneath that are the words POLICE SCOTLANDin big letters, and underneath that POILEAS ALBA in slightly smaller letters. Poileas is of course Gaelic for police, and it’s pronounced polis. Strangely, Conservative MSP Liam Kerr , who is the party’s spokesmoaner for Justice Except Where Gaelic Is Concerned, decided that he was going to take exception to the Gaelic on the logo, and not the Latin. This is possibly because he doesn’t want to offend Scotland’s immense population of native Latin speakers.

Interestingly, Liam’s own name is of Gaelic origin. Liam is the Gaelic short form for William, from Gaelic Uilliam, while Kerr comes from the Gaelic ceàrr, which means wrong. A Tory MSP has a name that means wrong. This is the clearest example of nominative determinism in reverse since Cardinal Sin was chosen as head of the Catholic Church in the Philipines.

I’ve been obsessed by language and linguistics since I was a wean. Scotland’s linguistic history and heritage is rich and complex. This country has witnessed different languages dance across its landscape ever since written history began, and probably before that too. The Gaelic heritage of Scotland is written into our landscape in the form of countless place names, created by native Gaelic speakers and dating to a time when Gaelic was the dominant language locally. The place names trace the former extent of Gaelic, and demonstrate that the language was once the dominant language of all of mainland Scotland north and west of a line drawn approximately from Dumfries to Musselburgh.

It’s no exaggeration to claim that it was the use of Gaelic which formed the basis of Scotland as a nation, and many of the earliest historical sources for Scottish history were written in the classical form of the language. In the early middle ages, when a person was called a Scot it implied that they were a Gaelic speaker. Gaelic may no longer be the language of a majority of Scots, but it remains a vital and living part of Scotland’s culture. It needs to be nourished and respected. That’s why it appears on the Police Scotland logo.

Possibly the only thing that could have annoyed Liam and his fellow Conservative Gaelophobes even more than there being Gaelic on the police logo would have been if there was Scots on it.

Personally I’d love to see POLIS written on the sides of Scottish police cars, or to use the technical term “polis motors”, just to witness the reaction from Tory MSPs and British nationalist commentators in the right-wing press.

The use of Gaelic and Scots in public signage isn’t really about ensuring that Gaelic and Scots speakers understand something. After all, all of them are bilingual in English. It’s about creating an atmosphere which tells speakers of Gaelic and Scots, languages which have been subject to oppression and ridicule in the past, that the languages are respected, are welcomed, and can be used. But more than that, the use of Gaelic and Scots in public signage is about acknowledging Scottish heritage and about making a public statement that Scotland is a country in its own right.

British nationalists respond with hysteria to attempts to protect and defend Scots and Gaelic, even though acknowledging the role of these languages in no way threatens or diminishes the place of English. English, Scots and Gaelic are all equally national languages of this country, however making that argument provokes the most ridiculous anger from British nationalists.

Some months ago I wrote a blog piece arguing that all three of Scotland’s national languages deserve equal respect, only to find that a British nationalist blogger (who of course wasn’t a nationalist at all because he favours the British state) claimed that what I was doing was exactly the same in principle as radio broadcasters during the Rwandan genocide calling on Hutu people to take machetes to their Tutsi neighbours. He was in all seriousness comparing English speakers in Scotland to victims of the Rwandan genocide because I was arguing that Gaelic and Scots are also national languages of Scotland.

The reason for the hysteria isn’t because anyone is demanding that English speakers are forced to learn Gaelic or Scots, because no one is arguing that. What British nationalists really object to is that if Scotland has a culture and an identity of its own, then there must be more to the desire for Scottish independence than an atavistic hatred of the English.